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Provincial government announces new innovation fund for energy-efficient buildings

Warren Frey
Provincial government announces new innovation fund for energy-efficient buildings

VICTORIA, B.C. – British Columbia is looking to push energy efficiency at the ground level with a new innovation fund.

The provincial government announced recently it has established the CleanBC Innovation Fund (CBBI) to support development of advanced building technologies and low-carbon solutions for commercial and residential structures.

The fund, launched May 9, will provide $1.8 million to “manufacturers, developers, builders and program administrators for the development and demonstration of innovative, low-carbon building solutions,” a government statement said. Successful applicants for the first round of funding will be announced in the summer.

“Reducing emissions from buildings requires cost-effective, high performance solutions that are readily available and affordable to people across the province,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “These include advanced building designs and construction methods, as well as ultra-efficient building components.”

The fund’s focus on practical solutions is gaining praise from one of the province’s newest green building stakeholders. 

“I believe the building sector doesn’t invest enough in research and development, so it’s refreshing to see a program like this. Our organization is focused on showcasing projects and technology that are already in use to get to zero emissions performance,” ZEBx executive director Christian Cianfrone said.

The CBBI provides funding in three different streams. Up to $30,000 is allocated to research leading to development and commercialization of energy efficient and low-carbon building solutions, while up to $250,000 is available in the commercialization stream for solutions that have been tested and are ready for scaling up to wider application.

A third demonstration stream for projects and programs makes up to $500,000 available to low-carbon and energy efficient solutions already in the marketplace that must be demonstrated to build industry capacity and public acceptance.

“It’s interesting that they’ve allocated funds for each phase of innovation and not just one big bucket,” Cianfrone said. “They’re targeted in who they want to support and acknowledge the importance of supporting all levels of innovation.”

All building types are eligible to apply if the projects involve technologies, construction practices or research that exceed the current BC Building Code and federal and provincial Energy Efficiency Act requirements. The projects must also be based in B.C.

The fund is one component of a larger CleanBC strategy to shift the province not only to more energy-efficient buildings but also reduce industry pollution, encourage clean energy industry jobs, reduce waste emissions and reduce the cost of electric vehicles.

Cianfrone said the fund is indicative of a shift in attitudes and awareness regarding energy efficiency and singled out B.C.’s Energy Step Code as an example. The code is a provincial regulation which allows local government to incentivize energy efficiency in new construction that goes beyond the B.C. Building Code.

“More local governments are adopting the Step Code, and the reason for that is they’re looking to their neighbours and seeing it can be successful and there’s the capacity available,” he said.

“Nobody wants to be the first, but a few governments adopted the step code and it snowballed from there. There’s lots of value in the idea of showing the way,” Cianfrone said.

British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) president Chris Atchison said the association supports the new fund and other government efforts to push reduction of carbon emissions and energy efficiency.

“BCCA supports initiatives that seek to improve the availability and affordability of low-carbon buildings. In particular we appreciate the focus on the commercialization of proven solutions and increased capacity-building for practices that are available in the market but need to be more widely accepted and adopted,” Atchison said.

The BCCA “also understands that affordability remains a key issue in our province and that often the need to ‘be greener’ is contrary to the need to be more affordable,” he added.

 Atchison said while the association supports green initiatives it’s also important for the government to concentrate on issues such as seismic resilience and other climate-related crises.

“BCCA continues to urge the government to also consider a forward-thinking seismic strategy and the importance of buildings built to withstand catastrophic natural events beyond ‘fail-safe.’ After all green rubble is still just rubble,” he said.

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